Wednesday, April 6, 2011


“Ohhh! Look!” I exclaimed to my husband Dick, pointing to the poster board tacked to a telephone pole. “There’s a yard sale down this street!”

Dick heard those words many times. For years we stopped at all the yard, garage and rummage sales we found. After all, we might discover a real bargain. And who could beat the prices?

Auctions, flea markets, and second-hand stores were also great places to get what we wanted without spending much. Finding a working HO train engine or the complete works of Shakespeare sent a little thrill of excitement through us.

Several Christmases ago one of my sisters gave me a little resin sheep with the word “Simplify” written on its side. As I dusted the tiny black and white figure each week, the word resonated deep inside me. That was what I needed to do—simplify. When I told Dick, I was surprised to find that he had been contemplating the same thing.

It wasn’t that owning possessions was wrong; we were just beginning to feel as though our possessions owned us. The words of Matthew 6:19 struck a chord with us. We had been doing exactly what the scripture admonishes us not to—“laying up treasures on earth”.

Our priorities changed as God taught us to distinguish between wants and needs. When we shop nowadays, Dick and I ask ourselves: Do we really need this or just want it? A year from now, will I still want this? Can I forgo this luxury and meet someone else’s need?

We also eliminated some of the baggage we own. Giving to church rummage sales is a great way to downsize. The proceeds benefit a variety of ministries from camping programs to families in crisis. So when I donate items I not only help give individuals the opportunity to stretch their dollars, but I support missions as well.

Most recently Dick and I found the online auctions and book resale sites an exciting means for dispensing of many no longer wanted objects, especially CDs, books and computer accessories.

People from all over the world surf the Internet for bargains. Through online marketplaces like eBay,, and we can weed out our cupboards and clear our shelves of previous “must haves”. Some sites even allow you to directly earmark the profits for charities.

And, long-standing thrift shop ministries—Goodwill, the Salvation Army, American Rescue Workers—still really appreciate big bags of good, clean, used clothing. They are thrilled to receive boxes of usable house wares in attractive, working condition. When we pull up to the back of the store, they open the door with a welcoming smile and the ready offer of a receipt for tax purposes.

Now, don’t get the mistaken idea that we have taken a vow of poverty or adopted minimalism. We just think more carefully before we buy, and simplify whenever the opportunity arises. For we have found that true needs require no moth-proofing.

©2011 Pamela D. Williams
This article was published in the Summer 2009 quarterly of VISTA .